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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Higher Standard

Matthew 5 : 21 – 22, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. NKJV
Matthew 5 : 27 – 28, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. NKJV
Matthew 5 : 43 – 45, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; NKJV
Do you remember the moment you asked the Lord to save you from your past sins and failures and to accept you as His child? Didn’t you feel clean and brand new when God applied the blood of Jesus to your sin stains and your guilty conscience through your faith in Christ? It reminds me of the time when God used Moses to bring the children of Israel out of the land of bondage and away from the oppression of man.
The children of Israel were crying out to God because of their anguish and the oppression of their taskmasters. As slaves to Pharaoh and having to live in the land of bondage, the Jews knew what hard labor without reward was all about. We can’t even begin to imagine how these “slaves” were threatened and beaten on a daily basis by their enemies. But God heard their cries and saw their afflictions and brought them out of their bondage with a high-hand.
As these former slaves were leaving what had been their prison camp for 400 years, they were taking with them all of the memories and scars of their experience of that land. Once they saw God drown Pharaoh and his mighty army in the Red Sea, they knew their days of bondage and anguish was over.
As hard and painful as slavery was for the Jews and their families to have to live under and to endure, they discovered something in the wilderness that challenged them even greater.  Once they had crossed the Red Sea and were now alive in the wilderness, they soon discovered that the land didn’t have the resources that were needed to supply their need for food and comfort.
This nation of former slaves knew what hard work was all about but God was going to introduce them to a new principle called “living by faith” apart from their works. He was going to supply all their needs and fight their battles but all He asked of them is that they would obey His voice and keep His commandments. When the people realized that the land couldn’t handle their needs it caused them to begin to worry for their lives. Instead of trusting God they allowed unbelief (God had forsaken them) to fill their heart. In spite of their unbelief God supplied all their needs and fought their battles. He remained faithful to His people even though the people had turned in their hearts against His voice.
As they saw what was ahead for them, they begin to reminisce about how “good” they had life in Egypt. They obviously had selective memory because they had forgotten about the days and nights of anguish and crying out to God for deliverance from their oppressors. Yet, they chose to harden their hearts to God’s voice even though they knew God was taking care of them. We must guard our hearts from unbelief when life doesn’t go according to our terms. If we belong to God then we must also believe that God knows what we need and also realize that it’s not always found at a store or a job, but from Him.
As they hardened their hearts because they didn’t agree with God’s plan of getting them to the land of promise, it prolonged their stay in the wilderness. You see, the Promised Land would only be granted to those who lived by faith and they weren’t willing to hear God’s voice, so God couldn’t bless them for their disobedience. So all that came out of Egypt and was filled with unbelief died in the wilderness. You may be asking what does this have to do with me. Well, here is where we come into the story.
Look back at today’s passages. Jesus introduced a new principle when He began to preach to the Jews that involved, not the Law, but truth and grace. Jesus took what was hard to keep under the Law and made it impossible under grace. I gave you three examples from all that Jesus taught that day on the Mount of Olives, to show you how much harder it is for a believer under grace than those who were under the Law. (JEWS)
Why would Jesus take something that people struggled to obey in the Old Testament and make even harder under the New Testament? So we would realize like Israel that man doesn’t have life by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. We can’t keep Jesus’ commandments in our flesh so we must humble ourselves and realize that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus taught us that what is impossible with man is now possible with God. Through faith in Christ we have become children of God and GOD IS WITH US!
With God all things are now possible. You can obey Jesus’ commands even though they require more than sacrifice, because He has given to you, His Holy Spirit. Now you must be willing to walk humbly by faith and receive the grace to inherit the promises of God’s kingdom through your faith. You and I can’t live a holy life in the weakness of our souls but we can live holy before God through His grace as long as we humble ourselves to His voice. Be encouraged today and know that God is with you. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Praying for you to succeed,
Pastor Asa Dockery

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